Catch up with Breast Cancer Care model, Debbie Kinghorn


Breast Cancer Care show group 2011

We're getting excited about the upcoming Breast Cancer Care fashion show this October. Each year, Breast Cancer Care select a group of models to take to the catwalk and show off new collections from top designers, as well as, showing how fabulous you can look and feel following a diagnosis of breast cancer.

We have caught up with one of the models from last year's show, Debbie Kinghorn.

Debbie has recently given a lovely speech at the model selection day which we wanted to share with you – here's her story…

"I found a lump in my breast just after my 3rd cycle of IVF treatment; this was January 2008. During my chemo I had a couple of challenging times when I ended up being admitted to hospital.

The first time, when I arrived, I was convinced for a short period of time that there was something seriously wrong, the ward I was on was strictly for cancer patients and there was a lot of wailing and moaning coming from behind the curtains, I felt so ill and scared that I hid in my cubicle for a whole day with the curtains shut.

It turned out the lady making the most noise was just constipated. That was my first lesson. Nothing is as bad as it first seems! I held on to this motto throughout my treatment.

I went on to have radiotherapy, Herceptin, now I’m on the Tamoxifen journey and have just had my second year all clear. I treated my diagnosis the same as I do with most things and hit it head on. I wasn’t prepared to feel sorry for myself and all the way through I knew this was not going to beat me.


Debbie Kinghorn- Sara Epstein Photography How Breast Cancer Care has helped me

I didn’t seek help from Breast Cancer Care at first; I thought that if I mixed with others with breast cancer, it would become more real or that it would somehow affect my positivity. I was obviously very wrong about this but at the time I had to trust my judgment.

It was at the end of my treatment that my diagnosis actually hit me. This is when I started to look at the support forums and make tentative steps in reaching out to others in the same situation. No one I met on line felt sorry for themselves, everyone was so helpful and positive. Lesson number 2!!

I felt able to celebrate my journey in January 2010 and I did three things: I started my own company, my friends and I did a 'Hoorah for healthy boobs' pub crawl, collecting money around London and we managed to raise £820 for Breast Cancer Care. I also applied to be a model in the 2010 Show. Unfortunately I got turned down for the show so I decided to volunteer instead.

I loved working behind the scenes and felt very emotional when I saw the models take to the stage, I don't think I'd prepared myself for the impact it would have on me. I got talking to friends and family of some of the models and realised just what an effect the show was having on them too. All the models looked amazing and so confident.

Being a Breast Cancer Care model

With tenacity on my side I reapplied for the show in 2011, this time I was selected. I remember Tracy, a model from 2010 standing up here last year telling her story, about how much it had changed her life; I don’t think I fully believed it at the time. Little did I know!!

I had no idea that I would become so close to the people I met on the casting day last year. We were encouraged to set up a Facebook group and we all tentatively took to providing status updates after the casting day. By the time The Show came about we all knew so much about each other, our treatment history and our lives. I have met some truly inspirational friends through this experience.

Breast Cancer Care modelsBeing a model in the show is such a privilege and with it comes a fantastic opportunity to tell others your story and the amazing work Breast Cancer Care do. I took the request to promote the event as a real challenge and embarked on a marketing adventure, alerting local newspapers, radio stations and television programmes about my story.

I’ve never been one to stand up in front of a crowd and especially not to have my photo taken. I didn’t even want a photographer at my wedding. However, with this challenge ahead of me, an alter ego took over and it was a bit like “where’s Wally”, I was popping up everywhere and I really enjoyed it… lesson number 3!!

I managed to promote the event in a few local newspapers and on a local radio station. I was also extremely lucky to be asked, along with two others to represent the 2011 models on a national television programme; a truly amazing experience. My friends are still in shock!!

Many of us also set up Just Giving pages closer to the big day, to provide an opportunity to donate for those who could not make The Show. I managed to hit my target of £2k just a few days before the show. While all this promotional work was going on we knew that Hilary (Alexander), our amazing stylist had begun to beg and borrow clothes, bags, shoes and a lot of accessories from all across London.

Getting ready for the show

The fitting day was held a month before the show and we finally got to see our outfits. Debbie, my catwalk partner, and I both held our breath when we walked into the dressing room. It was a girl's dream come true with rails upon rails of clothes, some top designers including Alexander Mcqueen, Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney!

We began trying things on. Not everything was exactly what we wanted but we had to remember that this was a fashion show and that you don’t always get to wear what you would buy for yourself. It was a chance to trust Hilary, her vision and have some fun with different clothes. Hilary did however cater for my significant knee hatred and agreed to swap one of the dresses for something slightly longer to cover them up.

The night before The Show most of us moved into our overnight hotel full of excitement and anticipation. We were taken out for dinner where we could all get to know each other even more.


The day of the show

We trundled up to the Grosvenor House Hotel together, no make-up and hair all over the place. We looked at each other hardly believing we were actually going to be models in a show. As we walked through the door, the magical day began. We were whisked into hair and make-up (events that happen numerous times throughout the day, when the hot flushes kick in!!). We really were treated like stars by the amazing team from Sassoon, Estée Lauder and the nail technicians.

Debbie on the Catwalk at the show

The dress rehearsal was planned for mid morning, so we were all in various states of readiness. We were all pretty clumsy at the start but thankfully by the second run through we had the hang of it and we even managed to get on and off the stage at the right time.

Some final titivations, the doors opened to the afternoon tea audience and we were off. I was absolutely petrified. It really was a mix of nerves and exhilaration all in one.

As always Breast Cancer Care staff were on hand to look after us and I got a much needed, calming hug just before my big entrance. I looked over at Debbie on the other side of the stage, we grinned at each other and stepped out to the most amazing cheers and applause.

I was extremely lucky that my family and friends were very close to the stage where I could see them, tears were streaming and tissues were being passed before I’d even got to the bottom of the catwalk.

During the break between shows, we had a little time to meet with friends and family who had joined us for the afternoon show and to have a small drink, not too much; those heels were precarious enough without adding alcohol to the mix! I looked into my mum’s eyes and I could see that she no longer had the image of me lying on the sofa, pale green, no hair, too tired and sore to move. She had replaced it with the image of me on the catwalk, looking healthy, happy and confident. The day had already worked its magic.

Then it was time for another touch up of hair and make-up and we were ready for the evening show. We all felt like pros this time around and knew it was the last time to strut our stuff, so the confidence level had increased significantly. The second show was even more amazing. The sound of the cheers, claps and whistles as each of us took to the stage for the final time to collect our flowers will stay with me forever.

After The Show we joined family, old friends and new model friends and danced the night away together. Celebrating not just what we had achieved that day but everything we had achieved since our breast cancer diagnosis. I was asked back onto the local radio to do a follow-up on the big day. Everyone at the station was so anxious to hear how it all went.

Following The Show, I’ve met up with quite a few of the models. We talk regularly on the phone and on Facebook and plan to meet up for our first anniversary at this year’s show. 

For more details on this year’s show, and to find out how you can buy tickets check out the Breast Cancer Care website or Alison Keenan's blog.

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